When I was in art school I had an instructor in "Conceptual Art" who loved to say, "Everything I tell you is the truth and everything I tell you is a lie." To my youthful mind this was a confounding statement. Only now, twenty years later, can I really appreciate the beautiful, simple, Zen-like truth of that remark.
All the rules of making pictures that attract specific audiences we've learned from Mark Wiseman's article this week are based on solid research - and common sense would seem to support the findings he presents. But we need look no further than these three ads by three of the finest illustrators of the mid-20th century to appreciate that the rules are made to be broken.
Both Austin Briggs (at top) and Al Parker (directly above) understand how to capture the attention of all readers with their flawless composition, interesting character types and subtle accentuation of relevant detail. Man or woman, young or old, its almost impossible not to want to invest a little time studying these pictures. There's just nothing generic or typical about them. They are just so eminently relateable and appealing on an entirely uncontrived, human level.
And since this topic really began last Friday with a Pepsi ad, it only seems right that it should finish with one - and one of the best, by the great Joe DeMers.
While DeMers' people are certainly far more idealized than Briggs' or Parker's, he transcended the intent of Pepsi's campaign to target a female audience by creating an image that gives almost equal weight to the man and the woman. Where many other Pepsi ads show only a woman, or where the man is reduced to just body parts (as in last Friday's ad) - good examples of how to follow Wiseman's recommendations for using picture content on audience selection - DeMers uses the woman's victorious body language and superiour positioning in relation to the man to send a subtler message - one that is still interesting and non-threatening to a male audience.
Its a truly masterful composition.
"If you use the wrong sex in a picture, you risk missing or misleading your audience, " writes Mark Wiseman. "The two sexes follow definite behavior patterns." The best illustrators prove that everything Wiseman says is the truth... and everything he says is a lie.